Bangkok, Thailand: 15-18 March 2017

Update: a/o 21 May 2017. Bangkok will be cleaning up its streets, including its street vendors. There goes my street food!!! Only certain tourist spots, like Yaowarat, will be retained. Read it here: Bangkok Clean up

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Trying out a new format to my headings. I get confused over my own headings so I best try out a more effective one. LOL 

Okay. So…

It was the March school term break here in Singapore. For the other parts of the world, this is something like your Easter holidays except that we all know that Easter is in April this year. We work on a 10-week term for the primary and secondary schools. Junior Colleges are slightly different and Polytechnics are totally on their own.

Anyway, with my colleagues-friends, J and T, we were off to the Land of a Thousand Smiles for a short stay of only four days. 

We took the Airport MRT to the city from the airport. It was quite convenient. Got to thank J who helped us get the transport card, Rabbit (yeah, the animal 🐰) Card, by standing in line (it was quite a line!). (After traveling by the local metro system, I realised that it’s about a dollar odd for each trip. Not too bad except for the crowdedness. You might get squashed in the process.) 

From the metro station, we walked about 10+mins to our hotel in Pratunam in the hot midday sun β˜€οΈ . Centre Point Pratunam is centrally located, near the clothing and shopping areas of Pratunam itself. It’s about a stone’s throw away from Baiyoke. Our room for two can easily fit us three, and with space to spare. 

It’s easy to get food all around the area. There’s even a 7-11 Convenience Store just outside the side door of the hotel, along the main road. If you don’t mind street food, then you will find many street food carts along the way, especially in the smaller lanes.

Hot hot day!

Our room for 3! 2 double beds to roll on. 

Skewered barbecued pork at 10 Baht (approx. 50cents SGD) freshly made and cooked.

We took a walk around the area. J wanted to do some clothes shopping so we went to Platinum Mall, which is down and across the road from the hotel. There is a food court on the TOP floor. Get a cash card from the main counter, buy your food from the stalls, and if there is any balance, you can get your refund.

Mango sticky rice!!! Our main snack of the day.

With the sun down and being hungry, we managed to find a Halal Thai Restaurant just on the other corner from the hotel. Total bill, including two bowls of plain rice 🍚 and a bottle of water, it came to about 300baht (approx. SGD12). Happy tummies, happy pockets, happy people! 😊 

Green curry with chicken and round brinjal, plain omelette, fried kangkong (water-spinach/η©ΊεΏƒθœ).

After dinner, we went to take a look at the night markets. There are quite a few in Pratunam and Baiyoke area. In fact, there are quite a number of these night markets in Bangkok itself. The famous one, ArtBox, had already packed up in preparation for the temporary move to Singapore. Singaporeans couldn’t wait for the favourite night market to arrive. 

The second day. 

We made a trip into crazy Yaowarat or also known as Chinatown. Looking at those signboards suddenly reminded me of Hongkong. Street food is plentiful, so don’t worry too much if you’re going to starve. From our hotel to Chinatown, it cost us 80baht by metered taxi. 

Our Friend, C, told us about a wholesale market there in Chinatown, called Sampeng Market. We finally found it in the midst of lanes and alleyways, and packed home loads of stationary for our students. Haha!!! That’s what Teachers buy when you bring them to a wholesale stationary place. Just make sure to find out about the wholesale prices in the shops you go to. 

The trip back to Pratunam was difficult as many taxi drivers refused to take us unless we fork out 200baht instead. Their reluctance was mainly because it was the evening peak period. We finally got one but the road back was on the side of being hair raising. We paid him 100baht for the trip. 

J and I had dinner together because T went for a massage appointment at upmarket Novotel Hotel. There are many little restaurants in the Baiyoke area. These places are housed indoors and not on the streets, but if you want to have an outdoor experience, it is always available.

What really marvels me is that the Drivers in Bangkok are really patient. They don’t sound their horns when there are pedestrians on the road, instead, they will slowly inch their way through, and hope that pedestrians will be more road-aware.

Oh yes! Try their local milk tea from the street vendors. Also, do take note of the cute packing for the takeaway packets.

Third day involves a trip to the supermarket, again. We found a link ridge from Pratunam to Big C supermarket. It also links to Central World, where we got our Shibuya Toast fix at After You Cafe. Thank God for smartphone maps! Or else we would had walked all the way to Siam Paragon, which is really far from where we were.

In the evening, we took the MRT and headed for JJ Green, another night market. It is located where Chatuchak market is, just next door only, but opened in the evenings. Quite crowded, so for the claustrophobic ones, avoid this area. There are many stalls selling vintage items, clothes, handicrafts, food and drinks, and there is even a stage with a live band. After a whole day out in the hot sun, I was ready to call it a day, or night. Whichever.


Last day in Bangkok and we went back to the same area as last night, but this time, we went to the one and only Chatuchak Weekend Market, where hundreds of stalls operate, where tourists flocked to but locals shunned. πŸ˜‚ 

PETA and other Wildlife agencies will be up in arms with what is being sold at this market. But first, food. 

Lots of food to feed the masses, and I found the best crispy pork   (Siew yok/燒肉) ever. And paired it with homemade sour chili sauce, it was just awesome! Writing about it now makes me salivate. πŸ˜† It is a little on the expensive price for street food, 150 baht (S$6) for 100g, but it was worth it, and I relished every single bite.


Alright then. Time to head back to the hotel, get our luggage, do some last minute packing, and get on the taxi for the airport. I initially wanted to have a foot massage but due to the time constraint, I’ll have to postpone it to the next trip to BKK. We three were quite sure our feet were tanner than when we left. Haha! 

Good bye, Bangkok! See you the next time!

18 Dec. 2016 – Day 15: Singapore

Good bye, Melbourne, and Tasmania! And thank you for all the sights and experiences during the past two weeks!

Got the StarBus hotel shuttle to the airport. Really convenient.

Unfortunately at the airport, there was not only a long queue at the check-in counters, our luggage was over the scales so we had to do some last-minute repacking, and finally, our flight was delayed by almost an hour.

So… hmmm…

Our plane flew over the desert areas of Australia and for a moment, it looked like those images we had seen of Mars. Alien landscape, in all sense of the word.

Anyway, we finally got home alright on Scoot, surviving 7 hours of dozing and reading.

What an experience.

hahaha! πŸ˜€

Alien landscape

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Leaving AustraliaIMG_2202

WELCOME HOME.IMG_2203

17 Dec. 2016 – Day 14: Melbourne

The last day of my time in Australia before I have to leave and return to work.

AHHHH…. 😦

It was a lovely Saturday for a trip to the Queen Victoria Market. Lots of bustle and lots to see. The day was exceptionally bright, such that all the colours seem to pop out on my photos. I finally got round to having that bowl of white wine mussels. Really tasty and fresh! We even had a plate of little Dutch Pancakes. So pretty.

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Took the tram down to the the Bourke Street mall area. Musicians playing in front of H&M store.

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Went to the Royal and Block Arcades to marvel at the architecture, and discovered Hopetoun Tearooms at the Block Arcade. A pity we were too full from our lunch at the market or else could had gone in to have tea.

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What else? Went for the Saturday Sunset Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Really lovely inside the grand building. Pretty flowers growing on the grounds of the cathedral.

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Apple blossoms?

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My last dinner in Melbourne was at Moo Moo Pho. Really tasted just as good as eating in Vietnam, only thing was that the beef was juicier than others.

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Well then, good night and good bye, Melbourne! Thanks for giving me great weather on my last day here!

Till the next time, stay well!

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16 Dec. 2016 – Day 13: Launceston to Melbourne

Our last day in Tasmania.

We took a last drive around Launceston, finally visiting the church we saw while driving a day or two ago. It’s the Church of the Apostles (RC), built in 1864, but its slender spire was not built till a century later (bad photo, can’t get the spire here).

Had a super short visit to Cateract Gorge, which is about 1km behind the church, up on a hill. It is a lovely place that requires more than just 15mins to appreciate. That was how long we stayed before leaving for the airport.


The drive to the airport was incredibly short, even to the petrol station nearest to the airport. We had to top up the tank to the brim before returning the car. We made good time and even had some time to browse at the shops before our departure.

Tasmania is a really beautiful island. It has the cleanest air, by far. If I have maybe another 3 days, I would had covered the Huon Valley, and that would complete my tour of the island.

Thank you, Tasmania, for being such a wonderful and beautiful island, and for giving me such an incredible experience of driving auto-gear up and down the slopes and sides of hills. I shall take the experience of such a drive when I tackle my next road trip.

πŸ˜‰
~~ Back to Melbourne, where the temperature was steadily climbing.

Got our hotel shuttle via StarBus from the airport and checked into Hotel Sophia on King Street. Since we still had time, I brought the Aunt and Uncle using the free Circle Tram, near Southern Cross Station. The variety of food at the food court there was rather bleah. 😞
We had a joy ride, before finally getting off at the stop near Parliament. They wanted to find out where we can go for Sunday Mass so I brought them to St. Patrick’s Cathedral ☘️ behind Parliament Gardens.

We called it a night after taking the tram back to Elizabeth Street/Bourke Street and changing to another tram, and a short walk later, bringing up back to the hotel.

Zzzzzz… 😴

 

15 Dec. 2016 – Day 12: Low Head & Georgetown

I fell in love…

With a beach. 

β€οΈπŸ–β€οΈπŸβ€οΈ

Think I left a part of my soul there.

Nothing to do with Horcruxes though. 

But, yeah. The beach is super lovely. 

See the photos for yourself.

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But before we got there, we drove north from Launceston to a little village called Grindelwald (nothing to do with that dark wizard). One of the owners there was so taken with the actual Grindelwald village in Switzerland that he some-what modeled this place after it. 

 

We made a little stop as we crossed Batman Bridge at the River Tamar. 

Proceeded to Georgetown. Wanted to have tea at this place but when we got there, it has already closed for some time. Even reviewers on Google maps said the same. Oh well. Anyway, the pavements there have little sea-related mosaic murals embedded. So cute! 


After a lunch of pies and hot coffee, we went on to Low Head, just a very short drive further north of Georgetown. We visited the historic lighthouse. There are several in the area so do check your map for the correct one. 

Not this one. Further up the road.


Look out for this sign. This lighthouse is really facing the sea.


The lighthouse-keeper shared that there is a penguin colony on the land facing the sea. They will come in to nest among the low bushes in the evening. That explains the little feathers and bird poop at the base of those bushes.


And then, as we were driving back to Georgetown, we came across this lovely, lovely beach. The waters are so clear and the colours of the sky reflected on them. Sigh… I left my heart there. ❀️


How to get there? It’s a secret πŸ˜‰. Find it yourself when you are in Low Head the next time. 😝

14 Dec. 2016 – Day 11: Strahan, Stanley, Launceston

After breakfast and checking out, we took another short walk to a waterfall, this time in Strahan. Hogarth Falls is located in People’s Park, Strahan. Look out for the signs to it, but it is basically located some where near the Visitor’s Centre. 

The walk is very manageable, under the shade of the trees and due to the rain the previous night, the whole place was very cooling. There’s only one trail, so it is really hard to get lost in there. Instead, take a look around as there are very interesting and informative signs about the various plants there. For a moment there, I was expecting some mini dinosaurs to pop out from the ferns.



Much to my dismay, the entire town of Strahan is Optus-unfriendly. You can only get Telestra signal there. Even the wifi at my accommodation was very weak. So, I was pretty much “handicapped” that one night. The visitor centre has very good wifi though. 

Goodbye Strahan! 

And we were on the road again.


Headed north to… 

Stanley! Main attraction at this super windy town is The Nut. It’s actually a volcanic plug left behind from ancient history. What’s left is what you see; a table-top plateau that’s accesssble by either a steep staircase climb or a AUD10 chairlift. We decided to admire this geographical entity from afar by braving the strong winds. Even the seagulls decided to lie down on the grass instead of taking to the skies.

We continued on to Launceston, but make a stop at the Makers’ Space Workshop in Burnie’s Visitor’s Centre. It’s a very interesting place that not only has travel information, but also a cafe, a gallery, and a shop which sells original items by local Makers, or crafters. It’s a good pit stop before hitting the road again. I was mentally exhausted by the time we drove into Launceston.



Stayed at The Olde Tudor Motel again. We got the same unit just two nights ago when we were in Launceston. Yay!

Good night.

13 Dec. 2016 – Day 10: Cradle Mountain

Launceston to Cradle Mountainβ›°. Long drive πŸš™ up and longer drive πŸš™ down to Strahan. 

But it was all worth it! 

Okay, so when we got to Cradle Mountain, it was cloudy☁️, so the photos are not picture-perfect, but never mind that. It was really like the shape of a cradle. 

On another note, we saw a wombat at the carpark. 

Photos!


Tickets bought from the Visitor’s Centre. 

Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake! 

The sky was really cloudy despite it being about 3pm-ish. 

The water is so clear and cold! Brrr… 🏞


Button grass. Such tough tufts of grass.


If I had more time, I wouldn’t mind going on one of those short trails, and walking amidst such a unique landscape of short grass, water holes, and craggy mountains at your back. Quite like a scene from LOTR but not quite.

And that was it for the day, especially after the long drive down to Strahan. It was so tiring, what with the uphills and downslopes, C-curves, S-bends, oh my gosh… 😱 Oh well, I survived and brought the family down to our night’s accommodation safely. 

12 Dec. 2016 – Day 9: Bicheno, St. Columba Falls, Launceston

Moved out of Swansea, but first, here’s a photo of the beach just behind the Swansea Holiday Park. Lovely, isn’t it? Quiet too. Maybe it’s because it was quite early in the morning still, around 9.

First stop, not that far away, is Bicheno. What to see? The Bicheno Blowhole on the coast. If you had studied or are studying Geography, you would know what it is, if you don’t, I’ll try to explain it to you as plain as possible. 

A blowhole normally forms from wave 🌊erosion of a cliff (seacave), when the waves make a tunnel through the bottom and due to some vertical fracture in the rock and consistent attempts for the waves to escape, pressure builds up over time and the vertical shaft expends, water then eventually “erupts” from that shaft after a wave hits the tunnel. Some blowholes can be just next to the sea/ocean, or even about a kilometre inland!

So there we were, navigating our way across the rocks, and trying to get the perfect timing to capture the spray coming out of the blowhole. 


It looks like steam coming out of the ground, right? A geyser? πŸ˜†

There are other parts of this beach to explore, so go explore!


Next stop, St. Columba Falls, in the general direction of St. Helens . But first, an unplanned tea break. We noticed lots of cows in this portion of the drive and soon came across Holy Cow Cafe & Cheese. They serve really fresh cakes and coffee (the cake set for the day is really worth it!) and even ice-creams, which I was hankering for. They even sell cheese from their own dairy. Really fresh and yummy! 

After our refreshing break, it wasn’t too far away to St. Columba Falls. It is one of the shortest great walks in Tasmania, and I agree. It was a really short walk and the view at the end was really beautiful. 


Then we were on the road again, towards Launceston. We stopped at the “Town of Murals”, Sheffield, for a late lunch. The town has more than 20 art murals around, and artworks by the locals were on display everywhere. It was like a living art gallery.


And then it was Launceston. 

We overnight at the Olde Tudor Motel. The place was really like an apartment, with a washing machine and dryer included! 

It was a good day. 

11 Dec. 2016 – Day 8: Richmond, Freycinet National Park, Swansea

Moving out of Hobart today. 

Thank God for the free upgrade to the Kia Sportage! We intially rented a Toyota Camry but look at how our current number of luggage took up all the space in the boot. Don’t worry, there was enough space left for the humans. πŸ˜†

Here’s a view from the motel we stayed at for 2 nights.

The motel: Motel Mayfair 17-19 Cavell Street, Hobart. How was it? Well, from the outside it looked really nice and old, but the inside was sadly, old, like from the 1980s and they forgot to renovate it. It facilities in the room were all clean and good enough to be used, and there were electric blankets for each bed and a central heater in the sitting area, but it was just old. So if you don’t mind the older interior design but care more for the facilities, this place is just right.

So, our first stop was Richmond, about 30mins away feom Hobart. Lovely little town, with a historic brick bridge that was built by convicts in 1820s, and the equally old but lovely and serene St. John’s Catholic Church nearby. Stopped there for photos, stretch the legs a bit before moving on.


Moving on to Freycinet National Park, which was almost 2 hours away, we stopped at a little town by the sea for our picnic lunch and while driving to Freycinet, came across this lovely little isolated beach.

By then, we weren’t very far from the National Park.

Got to stop at the Visitors’ Centre to get the ticket for our car. It was $24 for a car, which was cheaper than paying per adult. Drive down the road somemore, following the road signs to Coles Bay. Our final destination was to see Wineglass Bay. Saw a few wallabies along the way, or was it the same one who hopped uphill through the bush faster than us? It was quite a climb, about an hour up, but the views, and fresh air, were worth it. 🌬😊 How shall I rate the climb? 3/5. Definitely need some minimum amount of fitness. Bring a hiking stick.


After that, it was (backtracked) to our lodging in Swansea for the night. Located right next to the beach, it was a clear night to star gaze but the temperature and the long drive tires me out early. I could only give myself some minutes to walk to the beach, look at the twinkling stars, find the Southern Cross stars, identify Orion’s Belt (and Orion himself), before calling it a night. 

Merry Christmas!Β 

Dear all, 

First and foremost, Merry Christmas! πŸŽ‰

Second, I’m really sorry 😞 for the late blog posts, so I’ll do my best over the next two days to post it all. (I’ve been home from Australia for two weeks now so there’s no excuses not to do so.)

Finally, wishing, and hoping, that everyone reading this, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, that you and your dear ones will be blessed with a peaceful, joyful, and a week full of l❀️ve as we steadily make our way to the end of 2016. 

Merry Christmas! 聖θͺ•η―€εΏ«ζ¨‚! Joyeux Noel! Buon Natale! Feliz Navidad! パγƒͺγƒΌγ‚«γƒͺγ‚Ήγƒžγ‚Ή! 

πŸŽ„πŸŽ…πŸ»β˜ƒοΈπŸŽπŸŽ‰